Pope Francis v. Pope Francis about indissolubility and marriage

So Pope Francis in unofficial off-the-cuff remarks says that the majority of marriages are invalid because people don’t get what marriage is.   Those off-the-cuff remarks were quickly amended and are now the official off-the-cuff remarks, whatever that means.

I was reminded of a speech that Pope Francis gave to the Roman Rota about marriage on the occasion of the beginning of the judicial year in January 2016 (not very long ago).  Those were not off-the-cuff remarks.  The Pope used a text, from which he read.  HERE

Let’s read Francis through Francis.

In his scripted (not off-the-cuff) remarks to the Rota, Pope Francis said:

“It is worth clearly reiterating that the essential component of marital consent is not [not] the quality of one’s faith, which according to unchanging doctrine can be undermined only on the plane of the natural (cf. CIC c. 1055 §§ 1,2). Indeed, the habitus fidei is infused at the moment of Baptism and continues to have a mysterious influence in the soul, even when faith has not been developed and psychologically speaking seems to be absent. It is not uncommon that couples are led to true marriage by the instinctus naturae and at the moment of its celebration they have a limited awareness of the fullness of God’s plan. Only later in the life of the family do they come to discover all that God, the Creator and Redeemer, has established for them. [NB…] A lack of formation in the faith and error with respect to the unity, indissolubility [!] and sacramental dignity of marriage invalidate marital consent only if they influence the person’s will (cf. CIC c. 1099). It is for this reason that errors regarding the sacramentality of marriage must be evaluated very attentively.”

So, in January 2016 Pope Francis said is decidedly NOT off-the-cuff remarks, and precisely to an audience concerned with these matters, that lack of understanding of the ends of marriage and it’s indissolubility does NOT invalidate a marriage.   Only when lack of formation and error affect the person’s will would they possibly, and not necessarily, invalidate marriage.  Even so, marriages are assumed to be valid until they are reasonably demonstrated to be otherwise.

Put these different sets of remarks, those which were scripted and read, and those which were off-the-cuff (even in their amended form) in the scales.  Which one’s will we accept as being the real deal?   Pope Francis might personally have some odd notions about who is married and who isn’t, but when delivering an official address on the matter, his words were clear.

Not understanding – at the time the marriage rite takes place – the ends of marriage or that marriage is indissoluble all the way to the death of one of the spouses does not invalidate the marriage.  So says Pope Francis – on a good day.

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  1. Praynfast says:

    The good news is that Pope Francis is actually “showing his cards” in that he impulsively expresses his own thoughts, which are actually heretical. Those thoughts can be used to interpret his deliberate ambiguity in his writings, and then they can be used to determine that he indeed cannot be taken seriously. When his papacy is over, one should basically press ctrl + A and then “delete.”

    Speaking of which, did you read what he said about the genocide in the middle east? While much of it sounds like it came from a demented and/or drugged person, the rest of it quite clearly downplays the evils committed by Muslims. In my opinion, what he said is demonic.

  2. lairdangusmcangus says:

    I confess to having “tuned out” much of what Pope Francis says in his off the cuff remarks. It forms the cornerstone in my resolve to avoid the near occasion of sin.

    Wih that caveat, I am having some trouble understanding the objection from traditionalists to the Pope’s comments. Whatever is intent, his critique of modern marriages, even Catholic marriages, is a deeply conservative one. It is a call to re-sacramentalizing something that is in danger of losing its sacramental character.

    I must also say that there have always been “cracks” in Catholic sacramental marriage. The most glaring is the fact that we allow remarriage after the death of a spouse. The Hindus, with an even more sacramental conception of marriage, are more apt to toss the widow on the old funeral bier! I reckon there may be a few awkward moments beyond the pearly gates as spouse #1 greets spouse #2.

  3. benedetta says:

    Yes well certainly a great majority of holy orders are certainly invalid…hahaha I can’t take credit for that. I’m sure it’s been traded in other places as well but I got my laugh at this notion from a clever wag who blogs from elsewhere in North America. He adds, also, the problem of so many invalid liturgies. It seems a lot of people take vows of one sort or another and then do whatever the heck they want, and define the vocation according to whatever they want it to be. Like “many truths” etc. I guess so much really can be chalked up to just really bad parenting no?

  4. Traductora says:

    I’d say the January script was written by Cdl Muller or at any rate heavily edited by him (it doesn’t even sound like Francis) before Cdl Muller was banished after he objected to AL. Clearly, that was a defining moment: Francis and his kitchen cabinet got away with AL, Cdl Muller and all the members of the Curia, for that matter, were sidelined, and now Francis feels quite free to say whatever he wants.

    His scandalous “remarks” the other day, incidentally, were not “off the cuff” ramblings like his airplane ramblings, but were actually delivered in the context of the answer to a question at a formal bishops’ conference meeting.

    That said, I really think he’s getting more irrational and confused sounding in his day to day remarks. He was never a lucid thinker, was always very ideological and not particularly orthodox (his conduct in Buenos Aires regarding questions of marriage was certainly evidence of this), but now he really sounds as though things are getting away from him and even he doesn’t know from one moment to the next what he is going to say or do.

  5. tioedong says:

    He is making an observation, probably based on South America.

    But the quip there is that when the Catholic church there turned to liberation theology, the people chose to become Protestant. The Protestant churches in South America and here in the Philippines stress a personal relationship to God, and acting morally in your daily life.

    Catholics seem to be two types: Rich students, who are preached to “help the poor” and the poor, who are barely taught religion but love God.

    Where are the preachers that tell us to serve God in the duty of our daily lives? The Little way of St Therese? The sacredness of marriage and family? Or how about a sermon on sexual morality before marriage? the holiness of the mass to worship God (not as a pep rally for the wonderfulness of us)?

    Our local priests here in the provinces are good, but there are too few of them, whereas the Protestant preachers are many and attracting the middle class who love attending a meeting with other “saints”, and not have to sit with ordinary sinners, mainly poor folks, who fill Catholic churches.

  6. Cornelius says:

    Which set of remarks reflect Mr. Bergoglio’s real views? The “off the cuff” remarks, of course. The speech to the Rota was written for him by someone else and probably shoved into his hand minutes before.

    The off-the-cuff remarks are indisputably his own. Those are his real views.

  7. IloveJesus says:


    “…the holiness of the mass to worship God (not as a pep rally for the wonderfulness of us)?”
    We Are Eucharist! :P

  8. Maldon says:

    Unfortunately, because the pope is always saying two opposing things, he is practically speaking saying nothing. Those who are well formed will follow the pope’s good advice; those who are badly formed, i.e. the majority, will do whatever is easiest to do.

    How is there no institutional protocol in place for correcting popes? I mean, I guess you could say that there is, in the sense of handing him papers to read from 5 minutes before a meeting, with well-written ideas, and also the issue of re-writing later what he has actually said earlier. But this seems to me to be a sort of “fresh coat of paint” thrown onto a water-stained wall all the time. Somebody has to have it as his job to fix the hole in the wall. Cosmetic improvements will never compensate for the damage done at deeper levels. Whose job is this? St. Peter had St. Paul to set him straight when he wanted to placate the lobbying, pressuring Judaizing Christians (their version of secularizing Christians today?), but even that was a bit of luck. I mean, it wasn’t, strictly speaking, St. Paul’ s’job.’ Or was it? Is it ours, the laity? Is it the job of the cardinals? The bishops? Whose?

  9. Joseph-Mary says:

    It does not matter that if at one time this pope defended Catholic teaching; when he fails to do so that is what gets reported in the media. Consistency matters but the most consistent things coming from Rome are distressing things, sadly.

  10. kiwiinamerica says:

    The Pope often speaks well in scripted speeches. Some of his allocutions are quite inspiring.

    The trouble begins when he has no script and grabs a microphone, usually aboard an airplane, and starts giving us the Gospel according to Francis. That’s when he wanders off the reservation. His morning Mass homilies at Casa Santa Marta are another example of the unscripted Francis. There have been so many “he said what??” moments now, that it’s clear that the inspiring allocutions are the work of one or more ghost-writers. His own thoughts are frequently confused, sometimes abusive/pejorative and occasionally heretical.

    He’s going to Armenia later this week so look for some more fine speeches/homilies in formal settings and then a real train-wreck of a press conference at 30,000 ft on the flight home.

  11. Daniel W says:

    When the pope says a majority of marriages are invalid, he is simply stating the obvious consequences of today’s contraceptive, no-fault divorce mentality. Ed Peters makes a similar argument relating to the high rate of declarations of nullity, referring to the “startling, and ultimately destructive, levels of immaturity and irresponsibility which so many people bring to marriage today.”

    Discussing the high rate of declarations of nullity in these US, he writes:
    “Most tribunal critics recognize well the profound truth of the Church teachings contained in Humanae vitae. Yet I see no acknowledgment by tribunal critics that the wholesale disregard for, or ignorance of, those teachings among lay Catholics (to say nothing of non-Catholics coming before diocesan tribunals) is having any significant impact on the attempts of such people to enter marriage. The use of contraceptives, even abortifacients, is not a canonical impediment to marriage (this comes as a surprise to many tribunal critics) but, whether as cause or effect, it seems highly correlative of the startling, and ultimately destructive, levels of immaturity and irresponsibility which so many people bring to marriage today. For that matter, stories of heterodox, including pro-contraceptive, ecclesiastical marriage preparation programs and sex education classes are legion. Cannot such programs (some of them in place for over 20 years now) be having exactly the kind of grave anti-family/anti-marriage effects that opponents rightly fear?”

  12. Justalurkingfool says:

    I could be wrong on this but I have not read of Ed Peters calling for severe consequences when when the behaviors of Canonists deleteriously effect a marriage being studied, which sit before them.

    If he has not, why?

    If he has, could someone, please, publish a link?

    Has he ever called for severe punishment for those spouses
    who unilaterally divorce a spouse who does not want a divorce?

    I do not recall reading that either.

    If he has, could someone, please, publish a link?

    Has Ed Peters ever called for severe penalties against a bishop
    or against bishops who refuse to intervene on behalf of valid, sacramental marriages when the tribunals, especially the Rota, have found against nullity and the faithful spouse has, asked for such intervention?

    I have not read about it.

    If he has not, why?

    If he has, could someone, please, publish the link?

    Thank you.



    The same for Cardinal Burke and other “orthodox” Catholic Canonists, priests, influential Catholics and bloggers.

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  14. Sonshine135 says:

    I think the worst part of any of the Pontiff’s off-the-cuff remarks are that he provides ammo to those “c”atholics that receive their catechisis from CNN. Also, he provides ammo for Sister No Habit of the Great Swirly’s Monday women’s liberation doughnut group where she is advocating women’s ordination, birth control, and is now advising these women that their marriages are fake.

  15. doreilly says:

    What makes this even more confusing to me are his other remarks reguarding cohabitation that are being reported on Catholic Family News, in which the Pope implies “that those living in ‘faithful’ cohabitation can have ‘the grace of real marriage because of their fidelity.'”

    So now he has remarked that those Sacramentally married in the Church are living in invalid marriages and yet those living in cohabitation are living in valid marriages. Backwards comments and it is no wonder why most Catholics don’t know their faith, or want to know it, because it seems ok now to just make it up as you go along, and as long as you feel like you are doing good then that is the only standard to be held accountable to.

    What happened to accountability before our Lord, a desire to please God rather than people?

  16. Father K says:


    St Catherine of Siena did a pretty good job!

    Have just finished reading ‘God or Nothing’ a book length interview with Cardinal Robert Sarah (Ignatius Press). What a mighty Pope he would (will?) make. Keep praying everyone!

  17. Augustine says:

    If both statements are the Pope’s, only a Hegelian or a nominalist could hold them at the same time. In other words, he would not believe in absolute and objective truth, but merely in dialectics, at best, or in word play, at worst. If this were the case, in the practical terms of his exercise of the Petrine office, he’d be not the vicar of Christ, buy an easy mouthpiece of manipulating interests. In other words, a vicar of the devil.

  18. Ann Malley says:


    “….startling, and ultimately destructive, levels of immaturity and irresponsibility which so many people bring to marriage today.”

    This is also true when one looks at the demonstrable levels of immaturity and irresponsibility which so many “Catholic” prelates bring to the priesthood today. So, if this speech of Francis’ were followed up with an announcement that he was cleaning house to include defrocking those who show a demonstrated lack of maturity, are irresponsible with their statements which scandalized, etc, then perhaps we’d have a sound Vicar of Christ.

    Unfortunately, the lesson here is to look to the words, apply them to the speaker and summarily be absolved of listening to any future nonsense ramblings that contradict the Faith and the office of the Papacy.

  19. Hugh says:

    Excellent juxtaposition, Fr Z.

    Could I raise a question related to marriage and communion? Since Vatican II, it is allowed that (some) Protestants receive communion in the nuptial mass. There’s verbiage about the “proper dispositions” and belief in the real presence, etc, and it’s only at the nuptial mass. But, what the dickens? Are we to assume that Protestants who are about to be married are in a state of grace? How can that be determined if they are not examined by a confessor? Is that what happens? Does the celebrant determine that they are entirely free of mortal sin? Not as far as I know! Or is it some kind of working assumption – if in doubt, Protestants are not in mortal sin? First I’ve heard of it! That’s certainly not the case for Catholics, who are bound to go to confession once a year, on the grounds that they, for all the graces they have received as Catholics, are likely to have mortally sinned in that time! Moreover, if these Protestants ARE supposed to be properly disposed at the nuptial mass, why not subsequently? Why should they be well disposed then, in their 20th year (say) but assumed to be not afterward? Does age, and/or marriage, multiply the chance of sin?

    This whole area is, as far as I can tell, a complete mess. We need to clear this up before the liberal interpretation of A.L. can be disposed of with complete integrity.

  20. Hugh says:

    The other response I have is to Pope Francis – based on his address, viva voce:

    ‘So you’ve just published one of the most prolix Papal documents on marriage, full of pastoral advice and discussion about “irregular” marriage. Yet somehow you’ve omitted to say, even in a footnote!: “Oh, by the way, most of you who suppose you are sacramentally married, aren’t! And also, some of you cohabiters are in fact receiving the grace of marriage!”

    Teensy oversights, no?’

  21. carmel says:

    Bergoglio is the typical product and supreme emblem of the neo-modernism with all its confusions and unorthodox disorientations that was unleashed in the wake of Vatican II council. Anyone who has closely studied the history and aftermath of it can immediately spot its resurgence in most of the ideas, words and gestures of Bergoglio, all of which fall into a predictable pattern once he is seen under this light. For instance his recall and push into prominence of such neo-modernist heterdox figures like Kasper, Danneels, etc., fits the pattern, just as much as his resurrection of such controversial matters as communion for divorced and remarried as well as fast track annulment. The conflicted Pope Paul VI at the time lamented helplessly that the smoke of Satan had invaded the sanctuary. Under ST JPII and Benedict the smoke went underground. It is now rapidly seeping back and suffusing the sanctuary again under the watch of Bergoglio. Woe betide us if we do not speak out against it.

  22. Suburbanbanshee says:

    lairdangusmcangus said:

    “With that caveat, I am having some trouble understanding the objection from traditionalists to the Pope’s comments. Whatever is intent, his critique of modern marriages, even Catholic marriages, is a deeply conservative one. It is a call to re-sacramentalizing something that is in danger of losing its sacramental character.”

    It’s one thing to call for better formation, so that people will regard Sacraments as Sacraments. But it’s entirely another thing to disregard the Church’s traditional generosity, and its assumption that a Catholic marriage is valid and sacramental unless proved otherwise.

    Donatism started a call for more seriousness about Church membership and the personal holiness of priests — but it was a heresy that damned people to Hell. Jansenism and Quietism both called for more seriousness about prayer — and they led to despair and damnation, too. There are other examples. Burning the wheat and the tares while they’re all mixed together doesn’t save time or make bread.

    My personal feeling is that the Pope is one of those guys who really doesn’t think about the implications of religious statements and fervorinos. He’s living in the here and now, saying what comes to mind and not meaning any harm. I don’t bear him any ill will and he’s still the Pope; but I don’t expect his teaching function to be working every minute.

  23. doreilly says:

    Father K,

    “Have just finished reading ‘God or Nothing’ a book length interview with Cardinal Robert Sarah (Ignatius Press)” I have that book on my bookshelf but have yet to dive into it, can’t wait to read it though.

    Also I just came across this interview with him regarding the orientation of the Mass, very good and interesting. http://www.famillechretienne.fr/vie-chretienne/liturgie/cardinal-sarah-comment-remettre-dieu-au-caeur-de-la-liturgie-194987 of course Fr. Z came across it a month ago so I am behind, I was on vacation at that time though. :-) https://wdtprs.com/2016/05/card-sarah-it-is-essential-that-the-priest-and-faithful-look-together-towards-the-east/

  24. Imrahil says:

    Dear carmel,

    first, he’s still the Pope, and while it’s not forbidden to refer to popes by their last name, you’ve got to put a “Pope” in front of it.

    Second, Pope Bergoglio (sic) may be this and may be that, but if he be a product of neo-modernism (whatever that be exactly), he is certainly not typically such.

    They (however we define them and whatever we should call them exactly) tend to

    – belittle, ridicule, and try to hinder EF communities both under the ED commission and non-canonical (read SSPX),

    and the Holy Father doesn’t*,

    – lay little focus on traditional morality and even less so on manners,

    and the Holy Father doesn’t, but repeatedly teaches parents to make their children say “scusami”, “grazie” and “permesso”,

    – think, or talk as if they thought, that it is the supreme duty of a Christian to be modern and love modernity at least in all things in where it is not against the faith (like “do concede to us these little objections, we’ll compensate by being more modern than the rest of you in the other areas”)

    and the Holy Father doesn’t, but uses an all but forgotten good-old-times technology-critical tone in Laudato sii,

    – tend to shy away from unfashionable topics where they, or where they partially, still happen to hold to the orthodox position,

    and the Holy Father doesn’t, but where he does agree with what the Church has always said and how she has said it, he has no problems to go on saying it (such as the existence of the Devil).

    [* Yes, I know about the FFI; but for a couple of reasons their treatment doesn’t outweight the astounding fact that Pope Francis extended faculties to the SSPX, a think unthinkable even under Pope Benedict. One of these reasons: their chief problem seems to be that they don’t report to the ED commission (the Pope, and the CCL cardinal more so, may wish to see “all traditionalists neatly grouped where they belong”), and if I remember correctly – though I may be wrong – they were allowed to leave their order and found a new one under ED rather than CCL auspices. Also, the Pope did speak of the ban on saying the Old Mass against them as if he genuinely considered it a temporary measure that would be lifted in due course.]

  25. Gratias says:

    Pope Francis treated the 400 Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, FFI, ruthlessly.

  26. mo7 says:

    What a great new way to end a tiff: What difference does it make honey, the Pope thinks we’re probably not married anyway. So there.
    It sounds like married couples have been shown the door. I wonder how many might walk through.

  27. DonL says:

    Again, what pope Francis says today is so often opposed by what he said the day before. The issue is about his mode of operation–ambiguity. Is it a flaw or is it a Jesuit strategy?
    Who really knows, and that requirement to “discern and admonish” runs headlong into the “do not judge” requirement.
    In either case, I found this to be the most useful document on the misuse of ambiguity from an unambiguous pope.


  28. Ben Kenobi says:

    “I must also say that there have always been “cracks” in Catholic sacramental marriage. The most glaring is the fact that we allow remarriage after the death of a spouse. ”

    “when the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage” – what part is difficult to understand?

  29. Ben Kenobi says:

    “it seems highly correlative of the startling, and ultimately destructive, levels of immaturity and irresponsibility which so many people bring to marriage today.”

    Great point. The showstopper for me is when Francis goes off and says that “living together can be more of a marriage than the sacrament”. Eugh.

    Makes me wonder at times why I became Catholic. I want to follow the Catechism not whatever tangent Francis goes off on. I guess there is grace in the statement that had Francis been Pope John Paul II I’d not have come into the water. So I thank God for his blessings. *sigh*.

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  31. hwriggles4 says:

    Tonight on EWTN’s The World Over Live (June 23, 2016, check the archives) Raymond Arroyo had Fr. Gerald Murray and Robert Royal discuss the Pope’s latest “off the cuff” comment. Both Fr. Murray and Robert Royal expressed their disappointment publicly, and pulled no punches. This isn’t the first time Raymond Arroyo has publicly expressed his concerns about Pope Francis I making “off the cuff” statements. Statements like this confuse Catholics, particularly the “clock in clock out Catholic (I used to be one)”, and Fr. Murray voiced his concern in different words that there will be some Catholics going “priest shopping” to find a “Fr. Yeah Whatever” who will bless their marriage, and there was a good discussion on the dangers of cohabitation, and why the Church discourages cohabitation.

    The EWTN broadcast is worth catching. You can find it on the EWTN website, or on television. I thank Raymond Arroyo for sticking to his guns and educating the flock on the “nuts and bolts” and not “oh, everyone else is doing it.”

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